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Brooke

☼ Brooke: 15 years of Effexor XR and Wellbutrin XL. Hell withdrawal. AD free (and happy!) for nearly 4 years.

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Brooke
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Brooke

 

Hi everyone!

 

I'm thrilled to finally be posting here. I've been lurking here and there since 2016, when I first found Surviving Antidepressants when I was considering getting off of the Effexor XR and Wellbutrin XL I'd been taking from age 15-30. Like so may of you, withdrawal was hell on Earth. I experienced everything from homicidal visions to extreme noise sensitivity to rage to a bizarre blood vessel disorder called nodular vasculitis. Combined with the tsunami of pain and trauma that came gushing out after I removed my antidepressant band aid, and I was a barely functioning, terrified mess with no psychiatric support. I was lucky, though, to have some resources outside the traditional mental health system that helped me work through my experience, and today I am proud to say that I consider myself cured of chronic depression haven't taken a prescription drug since 2016. 

 

It's taken me until now to actually participate in the forum because I needed to know that I was in a solid place. So much of the internet (I'm looking at you Twitter...) can be a triggering environment, and had to make sure that I could mentally handle it. But I trust in the work I've put in, and I'm ready!

 

I say all this not to boast, but to wave from the distance and do my best to act as an example of success. I know that when I was in withdrawal and working through all the trauma, I would have done anything to know that there were people out there who were thriving after spending half their life on antidepressants. Instead, it felt like I was in uncharted waters. I wrote about this for the Washington Post earlier this year, and the flood of support and stories I got in response was overwhelming and heartbreaking. 

 

Anyway, happy to answer any questions, and much love to you all. 

 

Brooke

Edited by Gridley

Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Gridley

Welcome to SA, Brooke.  I'm very happy you posted and I know what you've just written will be a big help to many on this site.

 

If you're comfortable sharing  the resources outside the psychiatric system that helped you work through your experience, perhaps others here could benefit.  And we'd be interested in any whatever else helped you get through this experience.

 

You are an inspiration and we're happy to have you with us.


Gridley Introduction

 

Lexapro 20 mg since 2004.  Begin Brassmonkey Slide Taper Jan. 2017.   

End 2017 year 1 of taper at 9.25mg 

End 2018 year 2 of taper at 4.1mg

End 2019 year 3 of taper at 1.0mg  

Oct. 30, 2020  Jump to zero from 0.025mg.  Current dose: 0.000mg

3 year, 10 month taper is 100% complete.

 

Lorazepam 1 mg 1986-1991 CT, resumed a few months later. CT 2000.  1 mg 2011-2016.  Sept, 2016 increased to 0.5 X 3 in split dose. Sept. 2019 increased to 0.625 X 3 after crossover to new brand

 

Imipramine 75 mg daily since 1986.  Jan. 2016 began every 3-weeks 10% taper, down to 15mg.  Aug 2016, discovered SA, updosed to 25mg and holding.  Taper is 66% complete.  

  

Supplements: omega, vitamins E and D3, magnesium glycinate, probiotic, melatonin .3mg


I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice, but simply information based on my own experience, as well as other members who have survived these drugs.

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wantrelief

Hi Brooke - Welcome to SA!  Congratulations on making it through withdrawal and for the inspiration as well as hope.  I was hoping to read the WA Post piece but you have to be a subscriber.  I was wondering if you could post the story here without the link?  If not, no worries.  It is really great you were able to get the word out via the media about your experience.  Thanks for being here. 


-1/06 - 3/07 Cymbalta. Fast taper; withdrawal symptoms after 4 mos (didn't realize was WD)

-10/07: 100 mg Zoloft; 1 mg Klonopin - tapered off Klonopin
-Tried several times to slowly taper Zoloft by 10%, then 5% every 4-6 weeks; could never get below approx. 40 mg - spring 2012 experienced major WD symptoms due to stress; tried to updose but no relief, back on Klonopin 1 mg.
-Switched over 5-6 mos from Zoloft to Citalopram. Finished Zoloft 1/13; Citalopram 35 mg and 1 mg Klonopin.
-8/13: 27 mg Citalopram; 1 mg Klonopin

-11/14: 12.6 Citalopram - began to have bad withdrawal symptoms; out of desperation increased to 1.25 mg Klonopin at the beginning of December.  12/13/14 16 mg Citalopram - going to stay here to try to stabilize; stabilized on 16 mg Citalopram after 4-5 months

-7/15 - 3/16: reduced to 15 mg; ~ 2 months later w/d hit hard (probably r/t stress); 6/16 updosed to 20 mg Citalopram and trying to stabilize. Updosed to 1.5 Klonopin as well. Stabilized on 20 mg Citalopram after 4-5 months

8/17-9/17: feeling withdrawal symptoms at 20 mg Citalopram (due to stress) - slowly increased to 25 mg. No change in symptoms after 6 months (? tolerance ?)  - decided to start citalopram taper February 2018 (still on Klonopin 1.5 mg).

Supplements: fish oil; magnesium glycinate; vitamin D3; curcumin

Citalopram taper:  2/2018 - 12/2019: 25 mg - 11.03 mg

2020: 1/14/20: 10.89 mg (1.27% drop); 1/22/20: 10.75 mg (1.29% drop); 2/28/20 toe surgery; 4/26/20: 10.62 mg (1.21% drop); 5/3/20: 10.5 mg (1.22% drop); 5/10/20: 10.4 mg (1.24% drop); 5/17/20: 10.2 mg (1.25% drop); 6/7/20: 10.10 mg (1.27% drop); 6/14/20: 9.98 mg (1.19% drop); 6/21/20: 9.85 mg (1.30% drop); 6/28/20: 9.7 mg (1.22% drop); 7/12/20: 9.6 mg (1.23% drop); 7/19/20: 9.5 mg (1.25% drop); 7/26/20: 9.4 mg (1.26% drop); 8/2/20: 9.3 mg (1.28% drop); 8/17/20: 9.14 mg (1.19% drop); 8/31/20: 9.0 mg (1.31% drop); 9/6/20: 8.9 mg (1.22% drop); 9/27/20: 8.8 mg (1.23% drop); 10/4/20: 8.7 mg (1.25% drop); 10/11/20: 8.6 mg (1.27% drop); 10/18/20: 8.5 mg (1.28% drop); 11/8/20: 8.4 mg (1.18% drop); 11/15/20: 8.3 mg (1.19% drop); 11/22/20: 8.2 mg (1.21% drop)

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Brooke

Here's the WaPo article for those that can't get to it: 

 

I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I’m off the medication and feel all right.

 

The prescriptions began in the wake of my father’s sudden death when I was 15: Wellbutrin XL and Effexor XR for anxiety and depression, two separate doses of Synthroid to right a low-functioning thyroid, a morning and nighttime dose of tetracycline for acne, birth control to regulate the unpleasant side effects of womanhood, and four doses of Sucralfate to be taken at each meal and before bedtime — all given to me by the time I was old enough to vote.

 

My general practitioner asked what Sucralfate was after I’d finished rattling off my prescriptive party mix during our first appointment. I was 22 and a recent Manhattan transplant. I had an apartment in Murray Hill and a job waiting tables at a local Italian restaurant.

 

“It’s for something called bile reflux disease,” I said. “I used to randomly puke up bile all the time.”

 

“Huh. Never heard of it.” He ripped off a completed prescription slip and scribbled across the new blank page.

 

“You should really get the prescription for antidepressants from a psychiatrist, but I’ll give it to you along with all the rest since you’ve been on it for so long. And whenever you come back, maybe we should do a physical.”

 

At the time, it never occurred to me that my medication needed monitoring or that perhaps my doctor should do a physical before sending me to the pharmacy. Not only was this five-minute exchange routine, but at no point during my years in the American mental health system did a psychiatrist, psychologist, doctor or pharmacist suggest that I consider reevaluating the decision to take antidepressants. Therefore, I believed that my only choices were to cope with depression or cope with antidepressants, and that depression would always thump inside me with the regularity of my own pulse.

 

At age 30, I found myself hanging halfway out my Manhattan high-rise window, calculating the time it would take to hit the ground. Still depressed despite my antidepressants — possibly caused by the possible decrease in antidepressants’ efficacy over time or because I’d never properly dealt with loss and trauma — I regularly considered suicide. As I looked for breaks in the pedestrian traffic patterns, a thought dawned on me: I’ve spent half my life — and my entire adult life — on antidepressants. Who might I be without them?

 

The suicidal gears in my mind came to a screeching halt.

 

I pulled myself back inside my apartment, scheduled an appointment with a new psychiatrist and made the decision to get off all the drugs before deciding whether to take my life. I needed to figure out my true baseline. If I didn’t like what I found, well, the window was always open.

 

Flash forward to today, 3½ years since I took my last antidepressant. I’m all right. Deeply, honestly, joyfully, all right.

 

I followed my psychiatrist’s advice and went off one drug at a time, beginning with Effexor XR. I was on the lowest dose available — just 37.5 mg per day — so I had no choice but to stop taking the Effexor, cold turkey. Within 24 hours of missing my usual dose, flulike symptoms set in and my emotions went into overdrive; so in between the sweats and the shakes, I resisted the urge to saw off my skin with a box cutter just to get away from myself.

 

After six days without the drug in my system, my mind began to flood with bloody, homicidal visions. I was too scared to tell my psychiatrist what was flashing through my mind because I feared that she would deem me a danger to myself or others and put me on an involuntary, psychiatric hold.

 

I called an old family friend, a psychologist who lived across the country. She assured me that I wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but I still didn’t trust myself not to snap. So I locked myself in my apartment for a week.

 

The visions eventually lifted and were replaced by an intolerable sensitivity to light and sound. I tore the clothes off my back when shirts I’d worn for years suddenly became unbearably itchy. Then, I bent a metal ironing board in half out of rage.

 

I am not alone in this experience. In one New Zealand study of 180 long-term antidepressant users, 73 percent of participants reported withdrawal effects, with 33 percent reporting their effects as severe. Even several clinical trials aimed at discontinuing long-term antidepressant prescriptions “failed to successfully withdraw a majority of patients from the drugs despite slow and gradual tapers,” according to a 2019 article on antidepressant withdrawal published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.

 

For many people, antidepressants can be literal lifesavers. But not everyone wants to stay on them indefinitely, and herein lies the problem: There are few accounts about what it’s like to get off and stay off these drugs. For good.

 

The American Psychological Association reports that 12.7 percent of the American population is on antidepressants. One analysis found that nearly 15.5 million people have taken antidepressants for more than five years.

 

The conversation is beginning to shift about the efficacy of long-term antidepressant use, with articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times discussing questions that have long been neglected. But I think an important aspect of the issue remains overlooked: the importance of hope and role models.

 

I’ve spent the past 3½ unmedicated years wandering back through time, trying to untangle the decisions that led me to calculating the rate of a falling object from my windowsill. I began speaking publicly on the topic in an effort to organize my thoughts and break the shame I felt for letting my 20s slip away into a depressed, robotic haze.

 

When audience members approached me and told me that I gave them hope for their sons, their daughters, for themselves, I initially brushed these declarations off as niceties given to anyone who stands onstage and bares part of their soul. But as I reach a broader audience, my inbox is filled with messages from strangers specifically asking how I got off antidepressants.

 

This strikes me as odd. I’m not a medical professional. My bachelor’s degree is in history. I spent most of my career making $7.25 an hour in sweaty Manhattan kitchens, and there’s little I can offer others than to wish them well and send them links to a few books that helped me.

 

And the people who tend to contact me are not without other resources.

 

Among the strangers who have reached out to me in the past year: a Google executive, an American Airlines pilot, an audiologist, a physician assistant, a wealthy software developer and more than a few veterans.

 

They tell me that they’ve taken the drugs, talked to the doctors, practiced yoga, changed their diet and filled out the gratitude journals. And yet, they’re still depressed. What are they missing?

 

“Objectivity is what makes therapists so effective,” says J.P. Crum, a Reno, Nev., psychologist, “but it also comes with a loss of power. When patients can talk with other people who have had the same experience, who know what it’s like, that can sometimes be even more powerful and effective than what a psychologist or psychiatrist can do.”

 

The people who reach out to me are looking for hope. Hope that they can escape what’s been presented to them as a choice between depression or antidepressants. They want to rewrite their own personal stories, they want role models for how to do that, and few are available.

 

“The lack of research into patients who have recovered from depression is a great puzzle to me,” says Jonathan Rottenberg, professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. “The fields of psychology, psychiatry, epidemiology, and public health focus on the causes of people doing poorly — having more depression and more symptoms — rather than the causes of people doing well. We need to flip that paradigm.”

 

But hope, much like depression itself, can’t be measured in a lab. So what role does it play in the brain?

 

“Neurotransmitters are activated by more than just medicine,” Crum says. “If you eat something you like, chocolate for example, dopamine spikes. It’s a pleasurable activity that has nothing to do with medication. Having hope, being inspired, being encouraged — that’s a pleasurable state. There’s a chemical change because you feel different.”

 

Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, a clinician-scientist at the University of British Columbia, says he observes the effects of hope in his research on the neurobiology of mental disorders.

 

“Before the clinical trial begins,” he says, “patients report all these symptoms. Three days later, when they’ve officially entered the clinical trial but we haven’t begun any treatment, they tell us that they’re doing better. It’s because they have hope. We [as researchers] have done nothing. There are variables — nonmedication and nontreatment factors — that contribute to people feeling better. Hope is one of them.”

 

Had I been shown a role model for hope and a life without antidepressants early on, would I have spent so many years struggling to cope? I can’t ever know the answer. That’s part of what was taken from me.

 

But what I do know is that we rarely speak about depression as a temporary human experience.

 

So let me introduce myself:

My name is Brooke Siem. I am 33 years old. I spent nearly 15 years on antidepressants. As of today, it’s been 1,368 days without them.

And I’m all right.

 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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wantrelief

Thank you for sharing the article (you are a great writer!).  There is a lot in it about hope and you've indeed shared some of that with all of us here.  🙏


-1/06 - 3/07 Cymbalta. Fast taper; withdrawal symptoms after 4 mos (didn't realize was WD)

-10/07: 100 mg Zoloft; 1 mg Klonopin - tapered off Klonopin
-Tried several times to slowly taper Zoloft by 10%, then 5% every 4-6 weeks; could never get below approx. 40 mg - spring 2012 experienced major WD symptoms due to stress; tried to updose but no relief, back on Klonopin 1 mg.
-Switched over 5-6 mos from Zoloft to Citalopram. Finished Zoloft 1/13; Citalopram 35 mg and 1 mg Klonopin.
-8/13: 27 mg Citalopram; 1 mg Klonopin

-11/14: 12.6 Citalopram - began to have bad withdrawal symptoms; out of desperation increased to 1.25 mg Klonopin at the beginning of December.  12/13/14 16 mg Citalopram - going to stay here to try to stabilize; stabilized on 16 mg Citalopram after 4-5 months

-7/15 - 3/16: reduced to 15 mg; ~ 2 months later w/d hit hard (probably r/t stress); 6/16 updosed to 20 mg Citalopram and trying to stabilize. Updosed to 1.5 Klonopin as well. Stabilized on 20 mg Citalopram after 4-5 months

8/17-9/17: feeling withdrawal symptoms at 20 mg Citalopram (due to stress) - slowly increased to 25 mg. No change in symptoms after 6 months (? tolerance ?)  - decided to start citalopram taper February 2018 (still on Klonopin 1.5 mg).

Supplements: fish oil; magnesium glycinate; vitamin D3; curcumin

Citalopram taper:  2/2018 - 12/2019: 25 mg - 11.03 mg

2020: 1/14/20: 10.89 mg (1.27% drop); 1/22/20: 10.75 mg (1.29% drop); 2/28/20 toe surgery; 4/26/20: 10.62 mg (1.21% drop); 5/3/20: 10.5 mg (1.22% drop); 5/10/20: 10.4 mg (1.24% drop); 5/17/20: 10.2 mg (1.25% drop); 6/7/20: 10.10 mg (1.27% drop); 6/14/20: 9.98 mg (1.19% drop); 6/21/20: 9.85 mg (1.30% drop); 6/28/20: 9.7 mg (1.22% drop); 7/12/20: 9.6 mg (1.23% drop); 7/19/20: 9.5 mg (1.25% drop); 7/26/20: 9.4 mg (1.26% drop); 8/2/20: 9.3 mg (1.28% drop); 8/17/20: 9.14 mg (1.19% drop); 8/31/20: 9.0 mg (1.31% drop); 9/6/20: 8.9 mg (1.22% drop); 9/27/20: 8.8 mg (1.23% drop); 10/4/20: 8.7 mg (1.25% drop); 10/11/20: 8.6 mg (1.27% drop); 10/18/20: 8.5 mg (1.28% drop); 11/8/20: 8.4 mg (1.18% drop); 11/15/20: 8.3 mg (1.19% drop); 11/22/20: 8.2 mg (1.21% drop)

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Brooke

Regarding my treatment/process: 

 

Before I get into my withdrawal and treatment details,  you need some background on why I needed to go off the drugs in the first place. My situation was unique, and it fed into how my whole experience played out. Also, I'm not a doctor and I don't give medical advice and blah blah blah you know the deal. 

 

In early 2016, I owned a bakery in New York City. I'd been on antidepressants since my father passed away in 2001, and yet I was still miserable. Whether or not the drugs had worn off or I was experiencing iatrogenic effects, I don't know, but the short of it is that I was still massively depressed for someone on antidepressants. I'd thought about trying to change my meds here and there, but there was never a good time. And because I owned the bakery, I couldn't just take time off, so I figured this was just the way my life was going to be. 

 

In February, a trip around the world dropped into my lap. It was clear to me that I couldn't ignore the opportunity, but at this point, I was having memory issues that I thought were connected to my antidepressants. If I was going to travel the world for a year, I didn't want to 1) forget the whole thing and 2) get stuck in the middle of nowhere Cambodia and not be able to fill my prescription. It also dawned on me around this time that I'd spent half my life on the drugs, and something about that deeply bothered me. So I accepted the travel opportunity and decided to try getting off the antidepressants and figure out what my baseline was, thinking that I'd have plenty of time to "even out" by the time I got on the plane to Malaysia. 

 

In early March, I saw a psychiatrist (who actually sent me out of the office with a prescription for Prozac) and stopped taking the Effexor cold turkey, on my psychiatrists recommendation. I was on a low dose at the time, and she told me there wasn't a way to step down. I've since learned that that advice was bullsh*t, but I didn't know any better at the time. Flash forward four days and I'm having homicidal visions as I walk down the street, to the point where I call in sick and lock myself in my apartment because I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone. I don't call my doctor, because she was useless and I was concerned she'd put put me on an involuntary hold.

 

The two lifelines at this point: my mother and my dog. My mother just kept picking up the phone. And that's the piece of advice I give to any parent who asks me about their medicated kids. Just pick up the damn phone. Every time. That's what they need. I also had to keep my dog alive. Had she not required care, I don't think I would have made it.

 

The severe withdrawal effects from Effexor lasted about a month. I held out primarily out of anger and stubbornness. I was so angry at what was happening to me that I REFUSED to let it win. I would die in an explosive ball of rage before I took one more damn pill, because **** Effexor and **** my doctors for not warning me about this. I was far more miserable than I was on the drugs, but for the first time, I cared about myself. And that kept me going. Also, I kept having these little glimmers of light—seeing brighter colors, noticing how soft my dog's fur was, a creative urge—that kept me from going back to the pharmacy. One little moment wasn't enough to undo the hell, but it was enough to keep me curious enough to see what else might be out there. 

 

I stopped taking Wellbutrin cold turkey about 4-6 weeks after I stopped the Effexor. I could have tapered that one down, but by this point I was so angry that Jesus incarnate couldn't have talked me into a smarter choice. Also, I was getting low on time and beginning to worry about "evening out" before I left. I figured that less time on the drugs=more time to normalize, and I didn't want to drag it out. Lastly, my doctor told me welbutrin's withdrawal effects were negligible and likely wouldn't kick in for weeks to months, since the half life of the drug was so much longer. (A good time to remind everyone that I'm not a doctor and that this was so so so so stupid.)

 

I did not notice immediate symptoms from stopping the Wellbutrin, nothing like the Effexor anyway, which was still creating epic mood swings so severe I bent a metal ironing board in half. I realized I needed help when I was surrounded by ironing board parts, and that's when I agreed to work with a spiritual counselor. I'd resisted the idea up until then, because it sounded way too woo woo. But by this point, I was desperate. And I needed someone who would work with me remotely over the phone, so I could continue to have counseling while I was traveling. 

 

I began working with in a method called Compassion Key. I worked directly with the founder of the method, but now there are about 100 practitioners all over the world. (BEFORE YOU GO GOOGLING, note that while there is a Compassion Key website with some practitioners listed, not all of them are listed (many of the best aren't) and I'm not sure how up to date everything is.)

 

Here's the reason why CK worked for me when nothing else did: it was out of the traditional mental health system. At no point was my brain pathologized. We weren't trying to fix something that was broken. Instead, we were trying to heal what was wounded. That shift in perspective was huge for me, because it allowed me to actually talk about what I was feeling and experiencing without worrying that it would be classified as a personality disorder. I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew there wasn't anything "wrong" with me in a chemical sense. But I was in an astounding amount of mental pain. Some of it was due to losing my father when I was 15, but not all. And it was the "not all" part I couldn't wrap my head around. This method allowed me to work through it from the comfort of my own home, without the pressure of a clipboard and a time clock. 

 

HOWEVER, I can't ignore the fact that at the time, I was preparing to travel around the world and later, I was actually traveling around the world. This gave me three advantages:

 

First, I was forced to put one foot in front of the other. I could have a breakdown and bend an ironing board in half, but then I had to go get a yellow fever vaccine. In retrospect, I think having a gigantic project tackle outside of myself was key to working through withdrawal and early stages of counseling. I didn't have the luxury of sitting in my own ****. I had to get it together long enough to get the hell out of the country. 

 

Second, once I was actually traveling, everything about my medicated life was gone. I was on longer able to blame my business partner or the failing business for my sh*tty mental health. I wasn't having an Eat, Pray, Love experience. I didn't suddenly blossom on foreign land. Instead, it became crystal clear that my problems began and ended with me. Nothing about my life was the same as I moved from Malaysia to Thailand to Cambodia, and yet my issues still remained. That was a hard mirror to face, but it was key to healing. My only option was to face my trauma and my choices and do the damn work. 

 

Third, because I wasn't able to get my medication abroad, I was committed staying off the medication out of necessity. For me, this was huge. I'm a big fan of safety nets, but being on the road for a year meant I had a year to figure my **** out. And so I kept working with my counselor, all over the world, and by the time I was home, I had completely transformed. 

 

It's been almost four years, and I still have lingering side effects from spending my formative years medicated. For example, I'm in my first unmedicated relationship. It was a complete mind**** when I realized I had no idea how to relate to another person because it's like I wasn't there for my entire 20s. It's like whatever I learned from age 15-30 never really sunk in, like I went through emotional puberty at 30. I still have counseling sessions, but on an as needed basis. The biggest thing I'm grateful, though, is that I now know that depression is not permanent. I know that if I could work my way from depression to withdrawal to happiness, I don't have to worry if the clouds set in. I can do it again. That's been particularly important for me to remember during Covid, when days have felt darker than they have in years. But even though it might look like depression, I know in my heart that it's not. It is an appropriate human reaction to a terrible state of events, and as corny as it sounds, this too will pass. 

 

Ok, that's enough of me! Hugs to you all. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Armorall

Hi Brooke! This is a great story! Do you mind posting one in the Success Stories section? It'd be a great help to everyone.

What lingering side effects do you have? 


3/21/19 started Bupropion XL 150 mg

3/21/19 started Risperidone 2mg

7/7/19 start Abilify half dose 5 mg. discontinue Risperidone

7/9/19 full dose Abilify 10 mg

7/29/19 discontinued Abilify due to panicky side effects

8/2/19 Began Latuda 20 mg

8/5/19 discontinued Latuda due to similar side effects 

8/10/19 discontinued Bupropion after realizing it was causing the insomnia

From 8/10/19 no drugs whatsoever

Currently taking Magnesium 150mgs daily

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Altostrata

Thanks, Brooke. And thanks for the vote of confidence for SurvivingAntidepressants.org.

 

One of our objectives here is to document withdrawal experiences to educate doctors.

 

So in early 2016, you stopped taking Effexor XR cold turkey and got acute withdrawal symptoms for about a month (typical for acute withdrawal symptoms), but all during that time, you were taking Wellbutrin?

 

After acute withdrawal was over, you cold-turkeyed Wellbutrin? But you didn't notice any difference in your symptoms, which by that time were post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS):

 

53 minutes ago, Brooke said:

I did not notice immediate symptoms from stopping the Wellbutrin, nothing like the Effexor anyway, which was still creating epic mood swings so severe I bent a metal ironing board in half.

 

There are the mood swings and violent thoughts, but there are also your painful memories based on your life history. We would view the mood swings and violent thoughts as products of withdrawal symptoms. But you are still you, and you have those longstanding habits of mind that became clearer when you went off drugs. The habits of mind are not withdrawal symptoms, they are your psychological composition. Does this distinction seem valid to you?

 

We don't use psychiatric labels here for symptoms, but a psychiatrist might view those habits of mind as "relapse" of a psychiatric disorder. I am glad you found a counselor who took you out of the medicalization cul-de-sac and helped you redefine yourself.

 

Separating the withdrawal symptoms from your habits of mind, if you can -- how did the withdrawal symptoms change over time? How long did it take? How was your sleep during the PAWS recovery process, which continued into your overseas trip, in parallel with your work on your habits of mind? Do you have any residual PAWS symptoms now?

 

Do you recall your Effexor and Wellbutrin dosages? If so, please add them to your signature.


This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

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Artistic1

This is an amazing story! You gave me so much hope. Thank you for posting this.


Celexa - 20 mg May 2015 - March 2016 (Felt quite good)..... Celexa taper from May 2016 - Nov 2016.....Depression and Anxiety returned June 2017

July, 2017: Zoloft = 25 mg;  Aug. 2017 = 37.5 mg; Nov. 2017 = 50 mg thru Jan. 23, 2018.

Jan. 2018 - May 6, 2019 = taper Zoloft from 50 mg to 12.5 mg.  Aug. 11, 2019 - felt so bad that I reinstated at 25mg. Hold at this dose until Feb. 3, 2020

Feb. 4, 2020 = reduce dose to 21.875 mg. Hold for 10 weeks. April 14, 2020 = 18.75 mg. Hold for 10 weeks.  

June10, 2020 - start cycle of 2 weeks to taper slowly from old dose to new dose, then hold at new dose for 6-7 weeks.

June 23, 2020  = 16.666 mg.........August 26, 2020 = 14.75 mg ....... October 28, 2020 = 13.15 mg

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Brooke
16 hours ago, Altostrata said:

Thanks, Brooke. And thanks for the vote of confidence for SurvivingAntidepressants.org.

 

One of our objectives here is to document withdrawal experiences to educate doctors.

 

So in early 2016, you stopped taking Effexor XR cold turkey and got acute withdrawal symptoms for about a month (typical for acute withdrawal symptoms), but all during that time, you were taking Wellbutrin?

 

After acute withdrawal was over, you cold-turkeyed Wellbutrin? But you didn't notice any difference in your symptoms, which by that time were post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS):

 

 

There are the mood swings and violent thoughts, but there are also your painful memories based on your life history. We would view the mood swings and violent thoughts as products of withdrawal symptoms. But you are still you, and you have those longstanding habits of mind that became clearer when you went off drugs. The habits of mind are not withdrawal symptoms, they are your psychological composition. Does this distinction seem valid to you?

 

We don't use psychiatric labels here for symptoms, but a psychiatrist might view those habits of mind as "relapse" of a psychiatric disorder. I am glad you found a counselor who took you out of the medicalization cul-de-sac and helped you redefine yourself.

 

Separating the withdrawal symptoms from your habits of mind, if you can -- how did the withdrawal symptoms change over time? How long did it take? How was your sleep during the PAWS recovery process, which continued into your overseas trip, in parallel with your work on your habits of mind? Do you have any residual PAWS symptoms now?

 

Do you recall your Effexor and Wellbutrin dosages? If so, please add them to your signature.

 

Forgive me for my awful quoting skills. To clarify: 

 

When I stopped taking the Effexor cold turkey, I was still on the Wellbutrin. So the acute side effects were 100% from stopping the Effexor. 

 

I cold-turkey'd Wellbutrin after the Effexor. I did not experience an intense wave of new symptoms like I did with the Effexor, but all the existing symptoms still remained (but by that point they were less intense.)

 

Yes, the distinction between violent thoughts and habits of mind is clear. The habits of mind felt more like "me" than I'd ever been, whereas the violent thoughts/withdrawal symptoms came out of left field with no warning. There was a clear distinction at the time and now. 

 

The withdrawal symptoms didn't so much change as much as they became less frequent. An episode of violent thoughts or rage was just as intense during week 1 of withdrawal as it was six months later. The difference was that in the early days of withdrawal, it was happening multiple times a day, whereas six months later, maybe it was happening once every other day or every two days. A year later, it was probably more like once a month. 

 

My lingering physical side effects include increased noise sensitivity, sexual dysfunction/PSSD (I'm still working through this one and it has improved), and a wrecked digestive system. It took about a year for the nodular vasculitis to subside, and it still flares up under times of immense stress, but never as bad as it was during withdrawal. 

 

Emotionally, it took about 18 months for me to trust that I had some control over the mood swings. 

 

I think it's important to note the intangible side effects as well, because long term that's what's been the most damaging. Financially, I'm well behind where I should be. I essentially lost a decade of earning potential because I was too depressed and drugged up to give a **** about saving for the future. I've also struggled a lot in my relationship, because I never learned how to process the experience through clear thinking. It's not something that can ever be measured, but I know it's directly related to the fact that all of my early relationships were formed under the haze of medication. I've also had to come to terms with all the decisions I made while medicated that dictated my life's trajectory. In retrospect, it was clear that I was too numbed out and disengaged to care about my future, so I never thought long term. Over the course of 15 years, that took me way off the path and now I'm stuck cleaning up the mess. Some of that is just maturity and hindsight, but I know that a lot of it can be chalked up to the fact that I didn't want a future, so I never planned for one. 

 

 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Altostrata
1 hour ago, Brooke said:

The withdrawal symptoms didn't so much change as much as they became less frequent. An episode of violent thoughts or rage was just as intense during week 1 of withdrawal as it was six months later. The difference was that in the early days of withdrawal, it was happening multiple times a day, whereas six months later, maybe it was happening once every other day or every two days. A year later, it was probably more like once a month. 

 

This is important. To educate medicine, we have to get them to understand the difference between emotions generated by the neurological dysfunction of withdrawal and habits of mind because they misdiagnose ALL emotional symptoms as "relapse". And when you look at habits of mind, do they really deserve to be called psychiatric disease?

 

1 hour ago, Brooke said:

My lingering physical side effects include increased noise sensitivity, sexual dysfunction/PSSD (I'm still working through this one and it has improved), and a wrecked digestive system. It took about a year for the nodular vasculitis to subside, and it still flares up under times of immense stress, but never as bad as it was during withdrawal. 

 

 

What has been the progress of these more physical symptoms since 2016? Had you been taking Wellbutrin because of Effexor-induced sexual dysfunction?

 

Yes, there is also the grief over lost time. That is real and now, not a habit of mind but a normal response to tragic accident.


This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

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Brooke
1 hour ago, Altostrata said:

 

What has been the progress of these more physical symptoms since 2016? Had you been taking Wellbutrin because of Effexor-induced sexual dysfunction?

 

No, the Effexor XR and Wellbutrin XL were prescribed at the same time, at 15. 

 

The sexual dysfunction is only something I realized was an issue after I got off the drugs. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Altostrata

So you did not have sexual dysfunction while you were taking Effexor and Wellbutrin?


This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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Elyssa143

@Brooke

Thank you so much for posting and congratulations on getting through withdrawl! I am almost 27 months into withdrawl and although still struggling with some tough mental stuff and inner Akathisia things do seem to be less intense. Hoping for much more recovery in the next few months. Did you have inner Akathisia? Were u still struggling mentally this far out? How about suicidal intrusive thoughts? Again thank you@@!


13 months on 25 mg of sertraline.

Fast taper in march 2018, reinstated 12.5mg

Cold turkey sertraline april 17,2018

Zyprexa 5mg april 17,2018

Zyprexa taper to lamictal May 4-13 (life threatening rash)

Back on zyprexa 5mg for 10days & tapered over 5 weeks.

21 months off sertraline 

19 months off zyprexa

22 months into withdrawl 

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Cocopuffz17

Amazing story!! You are so strong :). Your statement about having to re-educate yourself on human emotions is exactly how I have been feeling the 15 months since I have been off long term antidepressant use as well. I was just coasting by as you stated. 


I follow The Plant Paradox lifestyle by Dr.Gundry. This lifestyle has given me my life back and I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. It has enabled me to finally get off of this medication and truly live my life. Nutrition is the key to health!!!!! 

 

2008 to 2019  - 20 mg Paroxetine

 

Attempted 2 CT's around the 5-6 year mark. Were absolutely terrible and reinstated. Was never explained by the doctor the seriousness of the short half life of this drug. 

 

2017 - Attempted a tapered discontinuation of this drug and reinstated after being unsuccessful.

 

2019 - Feb. 12 - After a three month taper I am off of paroxetine. The 3 months were terrible, awful withdrawal feelings. I followed the doctors guidelines for the reduction of this drug and now know it was way too fast. 
 

2019 - Oct. 12 - 8 months off paroxetine. 75% improvement since coming off the drug. Definitely have had tons of challenges along the way. Let’s go!!!! 

 

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Brooke
7 hours ago, Altostrata said:

So you did not have sexual dysfunction while you were taking Effexor and Wellbutrin?

I did, but I never put two and two together until after. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Brooke
6 hours ago, Elyssa143 said:

@Brooke

Thank you so much for posting and congratulations on getting through withdrawl! I am almost 27 months into withdrawl and although still struggling with some tough mental stuff and inner Akathisia things do seem to be less intense. Hoping for much more recovery in the next few months. Did you have inner Akathisia? Were u still struggling mentally this far out? How about suicidal intrusive thoughts? Again thank you@@!

I did not suffer from akathisia. I'm so sorry you have to go through it, but I'm glad the intensity is lessening. 

 

My intrusive thoughts trended less suicidal and more targeted at others/self harm. I found that the more I talked about them, the less intense they were. Like I had to break the shame to begin to let them go. 

 

I don't know if this makes sense, but getting off the ADs was like opening up a portal. It felt like every negative thought or emotion the I'd suppressed or experienced  (with the help of the drugs) flooded into my psyche and manifested in intrusive thoughts. The thoughts were the symptom, not the key issue. So once I started working on the root issues, the intrusive thoughts faded away. This was massive work, like digging back into trauma I'd experienced as a baby sort of work. I had to have a lot of tough conversations with family, but the more I healed the better my mind felt. 

 

I still get intrusive thoughts now and again, but I look at them as a sign that there's something I need to work on. It's at the point now where it doesn't even alarm me. It's more like, "Oh, hello again brain. I guess there's more of the onion to peel away. Lovely! But ugh. Fine, I'll call my counselor."


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Ichabod
Posted (edited)

Hello Brooke, I am happy you are doing well. I have read your introduction and your Washington Post article and they were inspiring. Congratulations for your journey. I hope I could do the same and feel like you and the others  who made it, one day.

I have to do this all alone and I am in hell now.

Edited by Ichabod

Paxil 20mg from July 2011 to july 2019. Paws.

Xanax 1 mg July 2011 to 27th January 2020.

Klonopin 0.5mg since 28th january 2020.

Amitriptyline 10 mg 28th April/21 May 2020

Klonopin changing in schedule:

-21st May: 0.2mg at 8p.m. and 0.3mg at 9p.m.

-22nd May: 0.2mg at 7p.m. and 0.3mg at 9p.m.

-23rd May: 0.2mg at 6p.m. and 0.3mg at 9p.m.

-24th May: 0.2mg at 5p.m. and 0.3mg at 9p.m.

-25th May: 0.2mg at 4p.m. and 0.3mg at 9p.m.

 

 

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Caspur

Hi Brooke,

Thanks for posting your experience. Its really helpful to see that people recover from withdrawal from venlafaxine. I suffered terribly and eventually reinstated. I am now tapering slowly and safely with few issues. All symptoms have been mild and bearable.

 

So pleased to hear you have made it out the other side and that life is good for you now.

Cheers

Capsur


2011 - started Venlafaxine (again) at 75mg Raised to 150 mg at some point - unsure of dates. Reduced back down to 75 mg. Doctor advised this would be a lifetime, maintenance dose

2017 - Side effects now intolerable. started taper from June 15th - 5% dose reduction steps (two 12 hourly doses).

2017 - October 20th - took last does of Venlafaxine - 4 mg. Debilitating symptoms followed.

2017/18 - diazepam - 8mg/day for 1 month - 7 week taper Feb 2018

2017/18 - duloxetine - max 90mg - now stopped

2018 - Feb 25mg quetiapine, increased to 50mg.

2018 - March/April - increased venlafaxine slowly (10mg steps) to 75 mg/day. Recovery from withdrawal followed.

2018 - July 13 - stopped quetiapine after 2 month taper. Late July - had to reinstate quetiapine due to intolerable withdrawal. Now tapering from 25mg

2019 - June - stopped quetiapine after 10 month taper. Mild insomnia only symptom.

2020 - Oct  - venlafaxine 15.4 mg.

 

Taper history details

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sunnysideup69

Thanks for posting this! I'm eventually going to be doing a Venlafaxine taper and your story is really encouraging :) 


January 2008 to April 2015 Citalopram 20mg to 5mg, reducing in 50 per cent leaps. Jumped off at 5mg

March 2016 used MDMA triggered setback

April 2016 Citalopram 10mg October 2016 cut to 5mg, May 2017 cut to 2.5mg

May 2018 used MDMA triggered setback

June 2018 Citalopram 2.5mg up to 10mg, then back to 5mg

July/ August 2018 7.5mg, then 10mg

June 2019 updosed to 20mg Citalopram

August 2019 cold switch to Venlafaxine 75mg XR

Supplements; 1100mg fish oil daily; also currently reducing caffeine, aiming to get off.

 

 

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Shep

Closing this topic, as Brooke has moved over to the Success Stories section, where she shared this wonderful story of success and healing: 

 

Brooke: Four years later, fully drug free and happy!


Drug free May 22, 2015 after 30 years of neuroleptics, benzos, z-drugs, so-called "anti"-depressants, and amphetamines 

 

My Success Story:  Shep's Success: "Leaving Plato's Cave"

 

And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good — need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ~ Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice, but simply information based on my own experience, as well as other members who have survived these drugs.

 

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